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Manuscript Wrestling 101: Words for Aspiring Writers

Stephen Johnson

By Stephen Johnson

Manuscript Tips for New WritersManuscript Wrestling 101 should be mandatory at workshops for all new writers. I don’t think it was part of my vocational writing degree many years ago. If it was, I must have slept through that lecture. It would have been handy to understand the elements of MW101 before tackling my first crime novel Tugga’s Mob.

Manuscripts are slippery customers. Their life force is born from the first words, with every page they become stronger and bolder. As a novice the manuscript often had me on the mat. The storyteller would be in a chokehold but refusing to tap out. I had to find ways to slither free and twist the plot back into shape.

There were exciting days when the protagonists joined me in the motorhome that was my mobile studio in Europe. My wife, who took notes from the co-pilot seat, was unaware the bursts of inspiration were being whispered from the passengers she never saw.

‘Do we have to go through this Roma place to get to Rome?’

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A second later a response would be hissed in the other ear.

‘What chapter can I kill him? Will it be painful?’

There was frustration. Trees thicker than the Black Forest grew from the fingertips when I was seeking the beauty of the woods. Cheeky protagonists would taunt me.

‘What a shame you killed me in Chapter 2. Doesn’t my exit deserve the epilogue?’

Frequently, I wanted to body slam the manuscript – take the laptop to the mat. Let the referee tap it out after the count of three.

It would have been a hollow victory. A good plot would have been buried under a mountain of words and busted electronics.

The art of Manuscript Wrestling 101 comes in wriggling out of corners. Being prepared to back up the bus to a junction that provides a way forward. The manuscript will wrestle you all the way. To be honest – that is part of the fun.

Stephen Johnson is an Australian-born TV news and sports producer who's swapped the studio for a writer’s garret overlooking the Tamaki Estuary in Auckland. Tugga's Mob is his debut novel with Clan Destine Press.
Image: WikimediaCommons

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